Late in 1950 Hieromonk Timothy Tepsich was sent to Fresno by the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of America and Canada to organize a church community. On March 18, 1951, Saint Peter the Apostle Serbian Orthodox Church-School Congregation of Fresno, California was officially incorporated in the State of California. The Church By-laws were approved and accepted by the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of America and Canada on June 1, 1951.
Worship Services were held at “Jadran Hall”, which was owned and operated by the Serbian Benevolent Society “Jadran”, organized in Fresno in 1904.
During 1951 the Choir and Church School were established by Fr. Timothy. They are both active in our parish to this day. The Serbian Mothers’ Club that was established in 1948 played an instrumental role in raising funds for the new church community. After sixty years the Mothers’ Club continues to be an active and integral part of St. Peter’s Church.
In August of 1954, the church purchased two and a half acres from the Serbian Benevolent Society “Jadran” at 3502 N. First Street. The property was to the south of the existing Jadran Hall. On the day of Ss. Peter & Paul, 1956, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the future church. Paul Vucovich headed the building committee with members John Pestorich, Stephen Zetz, Radivoy Tarailo and Sam Pavlovich. ‘Construction began on November 1, 1956 and six weeks later the cornerstone was blessed. Work progressed very rapidly and the church was completed in less than eight months. Plans for the iconostasis were drawn up by Father Vladimir Mrvichin, Dean of St. Steven’s Cathedral in Alhambra, and the Vicar General of the West for the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of America and Canada. The iconostasis was built and installed in time for the consecration by members of the building committee.
The consecration of the church was held on the weekend of June 15 and 16, 1957. Dignitaries from the City of Fresno and faithful from other Serbian communities throughout the state attended the festivities. The Rite of Consecration was presided over by the Diocesan Bishop, His Grace The Right Reverend DIONISIJE, together with all of the clergy from the Western parishes of the Diocese. The consecration banquet was held at the then famous “Hacienda Resort and Convention Center”. Kumovi for the consecration were early Fresno pioneers and church founders, Marko Pavlovich, Marko Pestorich and Drago Urdesich.
The years immediately following the consecration saw the beautification of the interior of the church. Parishioners donated the necessary church furnishings, stained glass windows, chandeliers, and three bells crafted in Belgium. The bells were blessed and installed in December of 1959. From 1961-62, the paintings on the iconostasis were completed and installed. They are the work of the late Innocenzo Dario, an artist from Los Angeles. He had also worked on St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Fresno a few years earlier. In 1962 the sign at the entrance of the church was erected and blessed. In 1972 a marble altar table was installed and the re-consecration of the church took place on September 24th. His Grace The Right Reverend GREGORY of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church presided over the consecration.
The First Annual Parish Golf Tournament was held in February of 1968. These tournaments were successfully chaired by Lee Angelich for 25 years. Thousands of dollars have been raised from these tournaments that have benefited the Social Hall and Education Building Funds along with major improvements on the church property and facilities.
At the Annual Church meeting in 1972 the membership approved the construction of a Church Social Hall. A Building Committee was appointed that year with Jack Jurkovich as chairman. A five-year plan for raising funds and construction was enacted. Construction of the Church Hall began early in 1976 and was completed and dedicated on November 14, 1976. Parishioners did the majority of the work on the hall on weekends and evenings, with the Mothers’ Club ladies providing the meals for the workers.
On November 23, 1986, Deacon George Gligich was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Bishop SAVA of Sumadija, who was the administrator of the diocese. Father George was assigned as St. Peter’s priest. This was the first time in the parish’s history that an ordination had taken place.
In 1982, a Rectory fund was established, with pledges from parishioners. The funds from this project -were approved for transfer in 1987 into a building fund for an Education Building and Priest’s Office. The groundbreaking for the Education Building was held on July 12, 1987. On November 13, 1988 the Education Building was dedicated.
In 1988 the playground equipment adjacent to the Education Building was donated and installed. In 2007 a new children’s play structure was donated and installed to accommodate the needs of a growing church school
In 1989 St. Peter’s Men’s Club was organized and to this day, through their monthly dinners, they have raised funds for special church projects and have given thousands of dollars to local Fresno and Madera charitable organizations.
In September of 1990 the 1st Annual Serbian Festival was held as a parish fundraiser. This event continues to the present day and is open to the local community, allowing us to share our traditional foods, culture and Orthodox Christian Faith.
On July 14, 1991, the parish celebrated its Slava and Fortieth Anniversary. During the Liturgy, Brad Matthews was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Grace the Right Reverend CHRYSOSTOM and assigned to serve St. Peter’s. This was the first time a deacon had been attached to our parish.
During the 1990’s St. Peter’s has been active in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees from the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, which had taken place from 1992 – 95, and the Kosovo Conflict in the late 90’s. The parish housed and sponsored seven refugees who were receiving medical treatment and prosthetic limbs in Fresno for over a two-year period. Clothing drives and thousands of dollars were collected from the parishioners to assist the Serbian Orthodox Church’s humanitarian fund.
Our parish has also been active in providing food to needy families in the Fresno / Clovis area, and given assistance to local charitable organizations through our Humanitarian Outreach Team which was established in 1998. We have also supported various missionary programs, and have supported mission teams from the parish to Project Mexico. St. Peter’s also raises funds yearly for the Fresno Pregnancy Care Center.
St. Peter’s celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary on the weekend of October 13 and 14, with the ordination of Norman Shultz to the Holy Diaconate by Bishop JOVAN.
In 1999 the refurbishing of the interior of the church took place. A fresco fund was established and San Francisco Iconographer Vladimir Krassovsky was commissioned to write the icons. This is an ongoing project which continues to this day. In 2004 a new Icon Screen was gifted to the church. The Iconostasis is made of oak and hand carved in Belgrade, Serbia, with icons written by Vladimir Krassovsky. The Iconostas features many medallions and designs from mediaeval Serbian Monasteries, and is a unique artistic treasure to the Fresno area.
For almost sixty years the Church of St. Peter’s has been an active community of worship and fellowship to those who are of the Orthodox Christian Faith. Our parish is currently comprised of Americans of many different ethnic backgrounds, including the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of those original Serbian founders in 1951. We look forward to the future and our continued worship and glorification of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
The Priests who have served our parish …
*Archimandrite Timotei Tepsich 1951 – 1954
*Very Reverend George Lazich 1954 – 1955
*Reverend Miomir Dubak 1956 – 1960
*Very Reverend Mileta Simonovich 1960 – 1963
*Reverend Krstivoj Kotur, Phd. 1963 – 1981
*Archimandrite Dositei Obradovich 1981- 1985
Very Reverend George Gligich 1986 – Present